This blog has always been a reflection of my life’s intersection with technology. Because of that, I tend to write about things that I am interested in or considering buying myself (in this case I recently purchased a 4K HDR Samsung TV). As I was researching the best new TVs — and as I read the specs of the upcoming Xbox One S with it’s HDR gaming capability — I realized I wanted not just a 4K Ultra-High Definition (UHD) TV, but an HDR TV as well.
People said that 3D was going to be a big deal. It wasn’t. People said that 4K was going to blow us away. The difference compared to 1080P HD wasn’t quite all that it was cracked up to be (though, of course, it is better — and I film all of my videos for DailyTekk in 4K). Then people said HDR was actually going to matter. And I think last statement is actually true.
If you didn’t know already, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. You might recognize those three letters from your phone which may be capable of taking HDR photos. While it stands for the same thing, the results are actually quite different between HDR photos on your phone and HDR video on the latest TVs. HDR video makes a very noticeable difference when it comes to contrast and colors: in both categories the performance is markedly better. In other words, if you compared two similar 4K TVs side by side — one with HDR and one without — you would definitely be able to tell (whereas plenty of people have had trouble telling the difference between a 4K TV and an HD TV).
Remember HD DVDs? Maybe you don’t… but that format was competing with Blu-Ray Discs in the not-too-distant past and, as you know, Blu-Ray won the day. Well HDR is experiencing a similar battle right now as two competing formats slug it out for dominance: HDR10 and Dolby Vision. In terms of buying an HDR TV, this means you might not be able to play all HDR content unless your TV supports both formats (and no, unfortunately you can’t upgrade a TV with HDR10 to also play Dobly Vision as a physical chip and licensing is required, among other things).
So HDR video is pretty new which begs the question: is it worth buying an HDR TV right now, as opposed to waiting? For me, the answer was definitely yes. I chose to purchase one of the more affordable HDR TVs from Samsung (which was cheaper than those listed here since I got a great deal on it). Why? It’s simple: I wanted to future-proof my TV setup as much as possible (and aside from the HDR functionality, the Samsung One Connect box helps along those lines as well).
In terms of content, there are already some decent HDR shows and movies available from streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, YouTube and Ultraflix (with more on the way).
All that said, let’s get into my top 3 picks for the best HDR TVs of mid-to-late 2016. I imposed a limit of $2,000 (or under) for this article as I wanted to keep things more affordable and in the mid-range selection rather than just listing off the most ridiculously expensive luxury TVs one could possibly buy. Which one looks best to you? Let me know down in the comments!
LG says that this OLED TV offers their best-ever 4K LED experience — and the 60″ version comes in under this article’s target price of $2,000. No matter the reviewer, LG’s OLED televisions are widely respected as either the best or next to the best in terms of picture quality. If you’re truly serious about experiencing incredible HDR content on your TV, you’ll appreciate that this LG unit can play both the HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats. The IPS 4K Quantum Display will produce stunning colors (both a wide array and nicely saturated), the 240Hz TruMotion refresh rate will ensure sports action looks as clear as modern technology will allow, you’ll get a very wide angle of viewing so even the person stuck off to the side for movie night will be able to see without any degradation in picture quality. You’ll even find some quirky, and unique, features such as Magic Zoom which lets you zoom into the screen even on live TV to see little details that you might otherwise miss.
Samsung JS7000 7-Series
Meet the Samsung JS7000 7-Series. When it comes to Samsung’s TV lineup there are two flavors: SUHD and non-SUHD (or just plain old UHD). When Samsung adds the S in front of UHD, it is meant to denote that this is a premium, top-of-the-line Samsung TV. This 4K SUHD TV uses Nano-Crystal technology to produce pictures with better contrast along with a wider range of colors; but Samsung TVs only support the HDR10 format. Unlike LG’s OLED TVs which are actually capable of turning off individual pixels to produce darker blacks and more color contrast, Samsung uses a method called UHD Dimming which is probably the next best thing. If glare can be or has been an issue in your TV room in the past, you’ll appreciate that this screen minimizes glare while absorbing ambient light and reducing reflections. While many people prefer LGs Smart TV interface above all others, I actually think the Samsung interface is quite likable itself. To keep with my tradition of mentioning at least one quirky feature you won’t find elsewhere: Samsung’s Smart TVs have a briefing feature which can act as an alarm clock and wake you up with your days weather, schedule and more to help keep you informed.
Vizio’s P-Series isn’t their top-of-the-line offering; in fact, it’s one step below the Reference Series which wears that title. But the P-Series does outperform the M, E and D-Series TVs which means this lineup is incredibly competitive with top-notch TVs from other brands. Since this article is primarily about HDR, I’ll mention that this TV supports only Dolby Vision HDR. One gigantic difference between this TV and the others on this list is the tablet which replaces the traditional remote control; with it you can cast content from your favorite apps, but it might take some getting used to (or you might love it). The HDR features of this TV are made even richer thanks to the 128 Active LED Zones which can be dimmed or brightened to produce more contrast (again, it’s not down to the individual pixel level like the LG). While it does have a bigger (and smaller sibling), fortunately the 65″ version comes in just (and I mean just) under our $2,000 mark.